Guidance on behaviour ‘stigmatises youngsters’

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Experts have expressed “alarm” over guidance from health officials which they claim risks “stigmatising” young people and limiting access to vital support and services.

The Association of Educational Psychologists (AEP) warned the guidelines published last month on conduct disorders in young children could result in anti-social behaviour being treated purely “as a medical issue”.

In March the National Institute for Clinical Excellence (Nice) issued a raft of recommendations to help parents deal with children who have repeated behavioural problems.

Kate Fallon, general secretary of the AEP, said: “I’m frankly disappointed and somewhat alarmed by the position Nice appears to have set out: namely that difficult behaviour by children should be regarded as some sort of ‘disorder’, and that such behaviour should be considered primarily in a medical context.

“All behaviour is a form of communication, which is something that Nice appears to have overlooked. There are countless explanations for a child’s behaviour, and many of these may be excluded if behaviour is viewed as some form of medical ‘problem’ – which in itself can be enormously damaging to a child’s sense of self-worth if they believe, or are led to believe, that there is something wrong with them.”

Nice said its guidance, developed with the Social Care Institute for Excellence, aims to “significantly improve the lives of young people with a conduct disorder”.